Forgiveness has healing power

Published 9:51 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

By Michael Brooks | Brooks is a pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church and adjunct instructor at Jefferson State Community College.

Presidents’ Day was established to honor George Washington, and later to honor both Washington and Lincoln whose birthdays are in February.

There isn’t general agreement on whether the holiday honors two presidents or all of them.

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I admire another president whose birthday is likewise in February. Last Feb. 6 was Ronald Reagan’s 106th birthday. I’ve met three U.S. presidents but never got to meet Reagan. The closest I got was visiting the Reagan Library and the former president’s gravesite.

Reagan displayed great courage on March 31, 1981, when he sustained a gunshot wound. The actual X-ray is displayed at the library and one can see the bullet lodged one inch from the president’s heart.

The alert Secret Service agent saw the president’s lips turning blue, knew this was indication of bleeding in his lungs and ordered the limo to speed to George Washington Hospital in the nation’s capital.

Reagan spurned the waiting wheelchair believing walking into the building on his own power was important for the nation. As aide Michael Deaver wrote, the president “hitched up” his trousers, straightened his tie, threw back his shoulders and walked into the hospital before fainting inside due to shock and blood loss.

It was a moment of great triumph less than a month later when Reagan addressed the nation from the U.S House of Representatives. He’d stared death in the face and walked away.

Deaver said that the president was unusually pensive one day during a hospital visit. “I began to pray for Jim [Brady] and Tim [Delahanty], but I realized if I had peace, I’d need to pray for the boy who shot us, too.”

Reagan joined a select group of notable forgivers.

After the attempt on Reagan’s life in March, Pope John Paul II was shot in the Vatican in May.

It’s well-known that the pope visited his would-be assassin in prison and prayed with him two years later.

A recent memoir revealed that en route to the hospital the pope prayed his forgiveness for the man who shot him.

John F. Kennedy Jr. interviewed former Alabama governor George Wallace in the inaugural issue of “George” magazine. Kennedy asked Wallace his feeling toward Arthur Bremer, the would-be assassin who put him in a wheelchair.

“I never hated him at all,” Wallace said. “In fact, I prayed for him, let God touch him, forgive his sins.”

Courageous stories like these shame the rest of us who so often nurse grudges and harbor animosities toward those who hurt us. The apostle Paul declared that we’re to forgive others just as God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). We can be grateful that God doesn’t harbor grudges but is merciful to us sinners.